Bliss Browne, KNFP-9 President, Imagine Chicago Bliss Browne
This article was originally published in the January 2003 issue of the KFLA Newsletter.
Quick Fact: Author of Possibility Handbook: Imagine Chicago: Ten Years of Imagination in Action, a conceptual framework for imagination as a social movement.
How have you, though your leadership, made a difference in one of your communities?
Imagine Chicago, the organization I founded in 1992, has pioneered an intergenerational and intercultural process of cultivating hope and civic engagement, which has now been copied all over the world. It has generated many meaningful opportunities and enabled those not previously involved as civic actors to bring their considerable gifts to the communities where they live.
What sustains you in your practice of leadership and your commitment to change?
Unbounded energy, an expansive vision of what is possible (which has emerged out of my Christian faith), a wondrous and ever-growing set of friends, the enthusaism for life my children manifest, and constantly witnessing what ordinary people are capable of dreaming and accomplishing.
What is your passion?
To create an economy in which nothing and no one is wasted-- especially by liberating and connecting the imagination of individuals and institutions in a way that inspires inclusive, hopeful community building.
How do you practice good self-care?
I try to sleep every day, laugh often, exercise, spend time with friends and family, and do creative work that I love.
How do you measure success?
By how many caterpillars turn into butterflies.
If you had to give an aspiring leader one piece of advice, what would it be?
Listen, live passionately from a stance of abundance, love questions more than answers, welcome life's mystery, renounce cynicism, focus on learning rather than success.
How are you different or what do you do differently as a result of your experience as a Kellogg Fellow? Why?
As a Fellow, I developed my learning plan on spirituality and leadership. I was a banker at the time, as well as a priest and mother. The combination began to make me really think hard about faith, imagination and public life, so I threw a conference on that topic in 1991 with the remainder of my fellowship funds. Out of that emerged the animating vision that has guided my life and work for the past ten years. I quit my banking job four days later to begin what became Imagine Chicago. The rest, as they say, is history. Imagine projects are now on six continents. I've just gotten back from a world speaking tour doing almost 200 events in seven weeks. My children see life as infinitely possible, which is the greatest legacy I can imagine.
Can leadership be invisible? How and why have you practiced invisible leadership?
The best leader in my view is the one that leaves people saying "We did it ourselves". But good luck explaining that to funders!